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Q I hope you will be able to help me find my maternal grandmother’s family. The problem lies in that there are two girls with her name born at roughly the same time and in the same place. Emma Mary BARNES’ marriage certificate shows that she was married at St Luke, Kilburn, on 2nd June 1895. Her age is given as 21 and her father was Joseph BARNES, a bricklayer. The 1901 census gives her age as 27 and Notting Hill as her birthplace. In 1891 she is recorded as aged 19 and again born in Notting Hill. The 1881 census includes two possible entries for Emma Mary. The first is in Hammersmith, where this Emma is aged nine, born Hammersmith, daughter of Joseph and Mary BARNES. The second is in Kilburn St Luke, for an Emma aged seven, born in Kensington, daughter of Jane BARNES, a widow. (Jane was aged 36 and born in St Pancras.) I have tried to find Jane, born St Pancras before 1881, but with no success, so have been unable to establish her husband’s name. Is it possible that the marriage certificate is incorrect and that the father, Joseph, was dead at the time of the wedding? To sum up: the only Emma BARNES born at that time who had a father, Joseph, living at the time of the marriage was the Emma with the mother named Mary. But is it possible to verify this in any way? Can you give me any pointers to find out which Emma was my grandmother?

Mrs Barbara Brady

A It is certainly possible that Joseph was dead by 1895 when Emma Mary was married. The information on whether the father of either bride or groom was deceased or not can be most unreliable. There are many reasons why ‘deceased’ may be entered and why deceased was not entered when the individual was in fact dead. You have not indicated the occupation of the Joseph BARNES in the 1881 census of Hammersmith. I note from the original return that he was a carpenter. Therefore, this family must be a possibility. In the 1871 census, the family are at the same address and Joseph is again recorded as a carpenter. In 1891, still at the same address, the family now lacks Emma as a member. If this is not your Emma, then either she has moved out, died or married. All these possibilities you need to examine in order to eliminate this Emma as your grandmother. In the relevant period and area, the Indexes to Births – search using – include two by the name of Emma Mary BARNES: in Kensington Registration District in the March Quarter 1872 and in the same district in September Quarter 1873. As Hammersmith was also in Kensington Registration District you need to apply for both these certificates. I also note that Emma (daughter of Jane) had a brother, Charles, in the 1881 census. He was aged ten and born in Kensington. The birth of a Charles BARNES was registered in the September Quarter that year, in Kensington RD – this too you need to check out. Finding Jane in 1871, or even in 1891, might help sort out the problem. But like you, I have not been able to identify her.

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